U.S. Public Policies: International Education

Like the digital divide of a generation ago, today we face a growing “global” divide, between those who will have access to an international education and will be primed for success in our globalized world, and those who will not.

The United States faces the global challenge that is providing its student population with international education.  Only 1% of American students study abroad, according to a study conducted by NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.   With minimal public policies and government funded programs to help students go abroad, the U.S. needs to begin encouraging the next generation of students to pursue an academic experience abroad.

The following are some of the key policies and programs being that can help to advance the progress of the international education field:

  • Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act

This program was inspired by late Senator Paul Simon, and it proposes that colleges and universities incentivize study abroad as part of its curriculum.  Its goals are:
1.  One million U.S. college students will study abroad annually for credit by 2020
2.  Study abroad participants will be representative of the undergraduate population in terms of gender, ethnicity, income level, and field of study
3.  A significantly greater proportion of study abroad will occur in nontraditional destinations outside Western Europe

Higher education institutions can apply for grants in order to provide its students with study abroad programs with the Simon Study Abroad Act.  The bill has been introduced in the Senate once and in Congress twice, and has been passed by the House twice.  However, it has never been passed by the Senate.

  • Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program

The commission published a report outlining the need for U.S. government programs for study abroad.  It proposed a vision and discussed the reasoning behind their proposal, such as globalization and economic competitiveness, U.S. leadership, and educational value of studying abroad.  The commission also addressed national security followed by six recommendations that will allow for “one million students to study abroad annually in a decade.”  The report was published in November of 2005 recommending the program,  which became the aforementioned Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act.

  • Fulbright

Fulbright is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the U.S. Department of state.  The program has several programs within it, such as teach or research programs, as well as student exchange programs.  Fulbright is extremely competitive between students, professional, teachers, and scholars, funded by appropriations from Congress.

  • Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program

This program provides academic or professional experience in the United States for students from designated countries.  The ten-month program offers awards to candidates who possess leadership potential and commitment to public service, and its aim is to foster an exchange of knowledge and culture between the United States and the Fellow’s country of origin.  Primary funding is provided by U.S. Congress in addition to other governmental, organizational, or private sponsors.

  • International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000

This was a bill to establish an undergraduate grant program of the U.S. Department of State to assist students with limited financial means to pursue international educations abroad.  It was written in hopes of establishing a scholarship program that would offer grants of up to $5,000 to each American students.  The Act was introduced and funded, creating the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program

The Gilman Program was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, and it provides awards for U.S. undergraduates receiving Federal Pell Grants to participate in study and intern abroad programs.  It is funded by Congress, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and administered by the Institute of International Education.

  • National Security Education Act of 1991.

Senator David Boren was the principal author of the National Security Education Act of 1991. This Act was signed into law by President Bush in 1991.  It mandated the Secretary of Defense to create the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which awards scholarships, fellowships, and grants to U.S. undergraduate students who held interests in study abroad areas critical to U.S. national security.  Under NSEP are the Boren Awards for International Study, which focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

  • International Education Act of 1966

This established the first major funding for international education in the United States.  It provided funding to higher education institutions during the Cold War and was passed in October of 1966.  It was a major breakthrough in international education because it received a total of $140 million over three years to support American students in their international education pursuits.  It funded student work-study-travel programs, faculty training, language training, etc.

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